From Blog to Book: Building an Online Platform

Guest blogger: Erin Reel @TheLitCoach

When I was a literary agent I received a nonfiction book proposal, Twinspiration, from Cheryl Lage in 2003, right about the time when “platform” started to become a buzz word in publishing and before the blogging craze really took off. I immediately fell in love with the work. I was excited to read the About the Author section of the proposal to see who else knew about Cheryl.

Aside from her role as a volunteer twins lactation consultant for her local hospital and a few locally published articles, the world was missing out on what Cheryl had to offer — delightfully refreshing advice on how to have a successful twins pregnancy and first year of twin parenting. Although a little deflated by the lack of platform, I felt this author definitely had something and after speaking with her, I knew with a little guidance, she could create an online presence that would connect her with her tribe.

Despite her lack of platform, I did something rare — I offered representation. But before the first book proposal was shipped off, we had a platform to build. Here’s the process we followed.

Know Your Purpose

If you’re an expert or advocate, what’s your purpose? What do you want to give your audience, your potential book buyers?

Cheryl wanted to give non-intimidating, common-sense, personal advice about how to have a successful twin pregnancy and first year of twin parenting.

Know How You Want to Communicate

Personal interaction with your audience is one of the best ways to earn their loyalty and continued readership and participation.

It was important for Cheryl not only to speak to her tribe but to speak with them. Cheryl decided that inviting her readers to participate across several areas of content was crucial to the success of her platform.

Know Your Content Anchors

What regular content will you offer?

Cheryl and I discussed key areas of content, something I call Content Anchors, before she began crafting her site. She decided she would have a themed blog post every day of the week. For the interactive component, I suggested she add a Q&A column and call out regularly for reader questions. She also added a book club and invited her audience to submit their best twin photos for her to showcase on her site. We had the formula. Now, all she had to do was go live.

Know Your Deadlines

As an expert who blogs, you are also an editor and a publisher. Creating compelling content consistently and sticking to your own blogging schedule and deadlines is important to building an interactive and invested audience. If you’re inconsistent, your online statistics will reflect it.

Cheryl chose a schedule she could stick to. To this day, I have not seen her miss a day of content. She has blogged through her twins’ daily lives, through her husband’s ongoing battle with cancer and through a hurricane disaster that nearly destroyed her home. She takes her role as an expert seriously and her fans love her for it.

Know Your Time

After approximately 18 months, Cheryl developed a worldwide loyal tribe of parents and grandparents of twins and multiples. She pitched articles to local and national magazines and newspapers, and connected with other twincentric bloggers and experts online. Because of her robust platform, she was sought out by a producer of The Today Show and other print and online media. Her work has since appeared in USA Today, Good Housekeeping, TWINS Magazine, Martha Stewart Living Radio and more.

Once her work was known nationally, we knew it was time to go out with her book proposal. Several months later, Twinspiration: Real Life Advice from Pregnancy Through the First Year sold to Taylor Trade and continues to be a popular resource for twin parents today.

In what ways are you strategically using an online presence to build your platform? If you’re not doing this, what’s holding you back?

***

TwinspirationErin Reel, The Lit Coach, is an editorial and publishing consultant, platform strategist, writer’s coach, columnist for Rainn Wilson’s SoulPancake.com and former Los Angeles based literary agent.

Be Sociable, Share!
  • http://mediaintercept.blogspot.com/ Pat Walsh

    What a terrific post! It seems the writing equivalent of the old real estate adage ‘Location, location, location’ is ‘Focus, focus, focus’ — both in our writing and in the marketing of our writing. In my own case, although I am blessed to have written two traditionally published non-fiction books, I have been trying to break into new subject areas (both non-fiction and fiction) for a very long time, and this wonderfully detailed approach makes me realize that I need to focus on building a platform for each new thing I want to do, rather than trying to ‘shoehorn’ something new into my already established reputation. That is a wonderful insight for me to have, and I thank you for your inspiration and excellent advice!
    All best,
    Pat Walsh

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      Pat, thanks for the kind words. You’re absolutely right about the focus bit. Even as an established author, if you’re passionate about becoming an expert in X, you still have to do the work, as Cheryl did.

  • http://poletosoul.me/ Christine Macdonald

    Thank you for offering up such useful tools. I especially like Content Anchors.

    To answer your question: In what ways are you strategically using an online presence to build your platform? If you’re not doing this, what’s holding you back?

    I’m building my online presence by digging deep within myself – and making my discoveries public, along the way.

    Through shedding light on my dark history, I’m connecting with many people who either share sympathy or empathy. Either way, the ride to self-discovery is never boring.

    I’m giving a voice to a unique experience that, for whatever reason, not too many want to share publicly.

    For me, honesty, sans “salesmanship” is key.

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      I asked a very successful car wash supply salesman what the secret of his success was. His answer was simple: good relationships.

      Christine, what you’re doing online is a great way to find your voice and your tribe – believe it or not, that’s marketing. You don’t have to be a “salesperson” to sell your message. Building solid relationships is absolutely essential and it’s your honesty that will make people invest their time and attention in your work.

  • http://www.gabrielle-meyer.blogspot.com Gabrielle Meyer

    This post appeals to me on many levels. I’m a writer, building my presence and working diligently to create a blog worth reading, and I’m also a mother of two year old twins, working diligently to make sure we all survive this crazy experience!

    As a blogger, I believe consistency and voice are two of the key ingredients I employ. I write historical fiction, but I can’t build a blog around that niche alone, so I dig deeper and I find other areas that appeal to me and to my readers. I write about many things, but I make sure that I’m passionate about everything I write. Whether it’s a topic about faith, parenting, marriage, friendship or books, I use my perspecitve and my voice to tie it together with the rest of my blog. I have a lot to learn, but I’m rejoicing that I’m much further along than I was six months ago when I started.

    • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

      You’ve got a solid blog, Gabriel. I’ve mentioned it before, but I enjoy reading it.

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      Gabrielle, congratulations on managing the writing life with twins! You and Cheryl should connect.

      Creating a blog to supplement your fiction is always tricky – and you nailed it, you’re showcasing your perspective and blogging consistently to keep your readers interested.

      I’m a sucker for slice of life stuff. When I read this type of content from an author, I feel as though I’m getting bonus material.

    • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major

      As soon as I erad this I though, “I hope Gabrielle sees this!!”

  • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

    I’m working on pastoring, writing fiction, tweeting, and Facebooking along with my blog. As a fiction writer, I really need to rethink my blog and what I want to do. Your post reconfirms this. My poor blog readers are getting little from me, because I’m not sure what to put on there. I could write all sorts of theological or philosophical musings, but this won’t aid my purpose for the blog, which is promoting my fiction. So I’ve got it on the back burner while I finish my next novel. Spreading myself thin is one weigh to lose weight, I suppose.

    • Jeanne

      You make me smile, PJ. ;) “Spreading myself thin is one weigh to lose weight….”

      I hope you’re able to figure out the best way for your blog to work. I’m really thinking on this as I prepare to take the leap and start one, hopefully in the next few months. Good luck with yours!

      • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

        Thanks Jeanne! I think Erin may have helped me out. My blog should contain stories about life and my perspective. Maybe I should focus on my visitation of seniors? Hmm.

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      As I responded to Gabrielle, creating a blog to help draw attention to your fiction can be tricky. And as she so adequately put it, it’s her perspective that captures her audience. The same goes for you. Don’t let book sales enter your mind while you create your blog.

      I’m going to be blisteringly honest here. I enjoy a small fraction of author blogs that discuss craft – and they are usually bestselling authors. Craft talk is everywhere now. What’s going to sell me on your book is getting to know YOU the author.

      My grandfather was an effective minister. People came from all around to listen to his sermons. He would teach by telling stories (and he made some awesome connections to writers, philosophers, etc.). He never shouted at his audience and chose his words carefully. You can do the same with your blog. Treat it like your sermon. Write from the heart – that’s what people connect with.

      • http://debracelovsky.wordpress.com Debra Celovsky

        I particularly appreciated your reply to Jeanne. We aren’t going to appeal to everyone. Successful blogging requires tribe-building. I think that is, to a great degree, what we’re all grappling with.

      • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

        Thank you, Erin. I’ll work towards a slice of life blog with a bit of my humor tossed in. As a pastor, I have to be careful, because my favorite humor is sarcasm and I don’t want to sound cynical. Instead, I’ll have to stress the playfulness of my meanings. My hamster is turning thanks to the lettuce you tossed it. Thanks!

        • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major

          No? Sarcasm? You?

          Irony and dry wit are vitamins to those of used who chafe at convention and beige polyester. I would love to read more of your observations on life. You are one funny guy and this needs to come across more!! Those of us who’ve been the vict…recipients of your humour usually come back for more.

          • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

            Thanks Jennifer! :) Years of writing sketch comedy still sneak out.

            I hope your vacation is going well!

          • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major

            Going great!!! I am amazed at all I’m learning!!

        • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

          Humor is always appreciated. Seems like people here know you for yours…there’s your answer. ( :

        • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts

          P.J., as I was reading through the comment thread here, I was planning to suggest that you use your humor on your blog, but you beat me to the punch. Go for it! Yes, in your ministry, you have to be careful, but in terms of a blog, I think people would enjoy a pastor with a sense of humor. So many people think that “religious types” are serious and proper all the time. Hey, God has a sense of humor, why shouldn’t you? As Erin said, let people get to know you. There’s a lot to like. :)

          • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

            Thank you, Christine! :)

      • http://www.heatherdaygilbert.blogspot.com Heather Day Gilbert

        I just got caught up on this post, but I think what you said here is VERY important, Erin. People want to know more about YOU as the author, even more than how you’re doing writerly stuff. I see this reflected every time I post something more personal vs. writing/blogging advice–the numbers go up.

        Though I think there’s a time and place for advice, as well. Whatever small writing victories we have, it’s nice to share how we got there. This was a great post!

  • http://megansayer.wordpress.com Megan Sayer

    This is perfect timing, thank you!
    I started a blog only very recently, because I was working on a book proposal and came to a fat zero when it came to platform.
    I was very lucky and had some early success, and all of a sudden I’m not blogging to me and my three friends any more, but to people who have liked my writing enough to follow it! Wonderful, wonderful situation to be in, except for the worry of What To Blog About. What’s my “thing”? I kind of knew the answer, but defining it and then working to that has been tricky, especially as my “thing” turns out to be as big and nebulous as “honesty, and the power of keeping it real with people”.
    So far so good (I wrote god accidentally – yeah, so far so God!!! That’s it :) )
    and these pointers will be VERY helpful, so thank you again.

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      Megan, congratulations! It is an awesome feeling knowing that your audience has expanded beyond your friends and family.

      I tell my writers to consider themselves magazine publishers when they blog. Plan in advance your content based on those content anchors I discussed. Stick to your schedule as best you can but don’t be afraid to mix it up if you feel the need.

      Will you make mistakes? Probably. That’s okay. Sometimes finding the perfect solution comes after you’ve blundered. We’ve all been there.

  • Stephanie M.

    I think I still have 2 blogs floating somewhere in netherspace, both started and abandoned on past projects that weren’t successful. At this point,I’m tired of failing to build any kind of blog audience.

    I’m just kinda hoping to get such good word of mouth for my book I’ll rise above the onus of technology :)

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      You don’t have to blog and not every writer should blog.

      If you’re writing fiction, focus on craft and build your portfolio traditionally. Submit shorter pieces to lit journals, e-zines, reputable contents. Check out Poets & Writers TOOLS FOR WRITERS (on their website – great resource!).

      Is it absolutely necessary for you to do all this work? Well, no, but getting your work out there does help build your audience and make you a bit more interesting to a lit agent and publishing team. It does make a difference.

      If you’re writing nonfiction and you still don’t want to blog, you need to freelance, speak, hold workshops (if you have something to teach that’s applicable to your book). You absolutely must be visible to a large audience.

      Good luck!

  • http://dawn-dix.blogspot.com/ Dawn Dix

    Good timing for me as well. I’ve had a blog, but haven’t found a theme yet. Since I’m a psychological thriller writer, I’m going to focus on all topics related to that. I’ve also had great fortune in doggedly making connections with well-known people through my Facebook Crime fan page. That’s enabled me to interview Stacey Honowitz and recently Marcia Clark, whose author interview I have to post in the coming days.

    I think I will find my rhythm, but it’s a tough gig. I just signed onto Twitter the other day as well, so I’m weaving my way through that.

    • Jeanne

      I just started Twitter this summer too. I’m trying to figure out how to best utilize it. Good luck as you work through all this platform building “stuff.” :)

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      Dawn, sounds like you’re on the right track! Fantastic. Good luck!

  • http://www.love-laugh-learn.com Deanna

    I think a lot in terms of building and online presence for organizations, but my personal blog has been more of a testing ground (rather than focused on building a platform) for the direction of my writing.

    I’ve been thinking of making some changes soon. Thanks for the easy-to-follow-steps!

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      Thanks, Deanna. My pleasure. There’s bound to be a little blog throat clearing. Map your content out on paper first – think broad strokes. What’s your hook and what do you want to share? Share it with some enlightened friends – get their response. Ask what they’d want to see on your blog. Gather info first, plan, execute.

      • http://www.love-laugh-learn.com Deanna

        Thanks! :)

  • Jeanne

    Such a great, practical post, Erin! Thanks for sharing how you helped Cheryl build a platform. I’m still figuring out how to best do this. I don’t think I’m utilizing Facebook or Twitter as much as I could, mostly because I’m not sure how to.

    I’m working myself up to begin a blog, and I think I have some focus points/Content Anchors. I have some general themes that I think can relate to my genre of writing (women’s fiction).

    I have a question for you. I’ve heard that as a blogger, I should offer my readers something. What are some ways that might look? I’d love any feedback you (or others) can offer. :)

    Thanks again for such a great post, Erin!

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      Jeanne, I’m going to go against the grain and say you’re not obligated to give your audience anything. You’re already giving your time and talent which is worth something. An occasional contest to give away a book or free services for the best comment can be fun once in a while, but it’s not necessary.

      I subscribe to blogs for the content not for the free stuff.

      Finding your voice on twitter and facebook is sometimes challenging. Luckily, there are scads of articles written about the topic. I love @MelonieDodaro’s posts on how to use social media effectively.

      Thanks for your comment.

      • Jeanne

        Thanks, Erin!

    • http://einefeistyberg.wordpress.com Cherry Odelberg

      Encouragement is even something you can give your audience or readers.

    • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

      Jeanne, perhaps the best place to start is just telling us some stories about your day. It worked for Erma Bombeck. I’m not on the advice giving side, though.

      Fun side note– Janet Reid is having a writing contest (100 words) jetreidliterary blogspot com . It’s about otters.

    • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major

      Just start at day one. Tell us why are you (FINALLY!!!!) blogging. Tell us about you. Play “this is Jeanne” for a while so we can build our relationship together. I have been WAITING for you to start blogging!!!

  • http://dawn-dix.blogspot.com/ Dawn Dix

    Jeanne, what do you mean as far as ‘offer them something?’ Do you mean giveaways? It’s not necessary

    • Jeanne

      That’s partly why I’m asking. :) I am not sure if “giving the readers something” is something tangible or intangible, i.e. “How to’s” or practical application as part of the posts, or something else. See how new I am to the blogging concept? :)

      What are your thoughts, Dawn?

      • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

        If you’re an “expert” like Cheryl, you’re giving advice, how-to tips,resources, etc. and an opportunity to join a thriving community where your readers can connect with you and even each other.

        Other bloggers like to give away services or free books they’ve written or from guest blogger authors.

        There needs to be a limit to how much you give away, however. For example, you shouldn’t blog your entire book or give away the secret sauce.

        Does that make sense?

        • Jeanne

          Yes. :) Thanks for taking the time to explain, Erin. :)

  • http://www.jbozzoblog.blogspot.com josey bozzo

    Oh this is so frustrating. I have a blog, but I haven’t been able to maintain a regular schedule and write at the same time. For me this is just not possible. I have a husband and a family and ministry responsibilities and I cannot spend all my time buidling a “tribe” just so I can get noticed and get published.
    This upsets me. This is why I am on the verge of giving up writing. It’s not about just writing, you have to have followers and a platform and be on Facebook and Twitter and all this other stuff that just isn’t my thing. I’ve had a blog for about 4 years was never able to get enough followers to get noticed.
    I guess that’s it then, no publishing for me.

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      Josey, don’t throw in the towel. You don’t have to blog. You don’t have to do social media. These are tools that help writers get noticed faster. They are not required to publish, but they do help.

      We’re all very busy people. We all have many areas of responsibility. The key is knowing what you can handle and what is outside your realm of possibility. Cut back, take your time, but don’t give up on something you’re passionate about because the “how” seems insurmountable. Don’t look at the giant mountain and give up; look at the rocks in front of you and decide how you’re going to climb those.

      Don’t give up.

      Thanks for your comment. You’re not alone.

    • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts

      I relate, Josey, but PLEASE don’t give up.

  • http://dawn-dix.blogspot.com/ Dawn Dix

    Josey, DON’T GIVE UP!! Please! I made the mistake of doing that 20 years ago, and now I’m at it again, determined this time. I know it seems ridiculous that these seem to be requirements, but you can do it slowly. Don’t overwhelm yourself.

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      Well said, Dawn.

  • http://dawn-dix.blogspot.com/ Dawn Dix

    I don’t have a huge following on my blog either, but it takes time. I don’t blog every day, maybe twice a week. I only get a few comments here and there, but NEVER GIVE UP.

    • http://Www.summerjarviswrites.com Summer

      Same here!

  • http://myquirkycity.wordpress.com Heather

    This is an amazing post. What’s kept me back from continuing the platform thing is timing. I work full time, so my spare time is focused on my writing (what will eventually be proposed).

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      Thanks, Heather.

      Like I said in an earlier response, we’re all swamped. The time you have now is golden. Once you land a book deal (fingers crossed) you will have an entirely new plate of responsibilities in front of you.

      I agree that the priority be placed on your project. That was Cheryl’s case. Going this route, you just have to be okay with taking your time in building your platform and knowing the right moment to approach an agent and the publishing world with your work.

      Good luck!

  • http://dawn-dix.blogspot.com/ Dawn Dix

    Heather, I’m with you! I work full-time and feel like I have TWO full-time jobs, trying to squeeze in my writing and all I have to do related to it…it’s a great feeling and a stressed feeling all at once

  • http://dawn-dix.blogspot.com/ Dawn Dix

    WELL PUT Erin!!

  • http://www.christianmamasguide.com Erin

    This is such amazing advice for us non-fiction authors… I feel like you wrote it just for me!! Thank you for the amazing tips…

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      Thanks, Erin! Good luck to you.

  • http://fivebeesinthetriangle.blogspot.com Heidi Blankenship

    This post is helpful and encouraging. Thank you. The concept of content anchors resonated with me. You also reaffirmed advice I hear consistently in messages about platform building: consistent blog posts. I get it. I don’t quite know how to balance frequent posting with my fiction writing, family life, etc. But I am not giving up. Thanks again for the informative post.

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      Thanks, Heidi. Start with just one a week. If that pace works for you, roll with it. Try to add this writing time to your schedule so it becomes part of your routine. You don’t have to blog every day. One great post a week is better than 5 so-so posts.

  • Pingback: From Blog to Book: Building an Online Platform | Rachelle Gardner « Thoughts From A Closet Author

  • http://www.moretobe.com Lisa

    Great suggestions in this post. I love the Q&A idea and as I launch a new eBook, I think I’ll put that idea before the Lord in pray and consider how it might play out on my website. Thanks!

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      Awesome, Lisa. Good luck to you!

  • http://einefeistyberg.wordpress.com Cherry Odelberg

    I blog about things that interest and inspire me. In that way, I hope to do two things 1) find and connect with soul mates, 2) provide a helpful thought or two that might help unknown readers through a tough spot.

    Hmmmm, my philosophical introspection does not seem very strategic in light of Erin’s post. Perhaps it is time to reorganize. No, I don’t want to use relationships as a means to sell my writing. Yes, I do want my writing to be effective. My helpful musings will never get to the intended recipient if I do not maintain and upgrade the vehicle.

    • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

      I don’t know. “Dead Lizards on the Trail” was a real grabber. I’m not saying you should kill random reptiles to promote your writing, but it seems your evaluation of your daily events has an endearing wry wit quality.

      • http://einefeistyberg.wordpress.com Cherry Odelberg

        You are too kind. Wry and wit are labels I covet.

  • http://www.marcusbrotherton.com Marcus Brotherton

    Erin, thanks for this thoughtful, encouraging, and helpful post. best–MB

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      Thanks, Marcus!

  • http://www.craigwturner.com Craig

    Erin…

    Great post! I’ve been pitching a number of novels to agents for the past 15 years with no luck. Rachelle’s written a lot about author platform and it’s been inspiring, so just this past weekend I kicked it off. I self-published my LAST book through Amazon, created my web page and integrated all of the appropriate social media. It’s been enlightening, and I’ve had great response in only a few days! Hopefully the platform will make me and my current book I’m shopping more attractive for publication.

    The catch for me was, as mentioned in some of the comments above, being able to provide web site content that was interesting. I decided that my since my current novel is time travel fiction, I would write about time travel. I’ve been including Q&A posing questions about how people felt about different references to time travel. I’m very happy about where the interaction is going.

    Thanks for the advice!!!

    • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts

      Congratulations, Craig!

  • Pingback: Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, July 26, 2012 « cochisewriters

  • http://christianmomthoughts.com Natasha

    First, I have to say that I am a mom of twins and that was the first book I bought when I found out we were having them! Great resource! :)

    I started my blog in November and have about 3,500 readers between Facebook, email and RSS. While my platform is growing steadily, I am constantly conflicted about growth versus content choices. Here are a couple of challenges I regularly find myself thinking about:

    1. There is a difference between readers liking a post and readers clicking “like” to share on Facebook. Writing in a way that generates a sharing action on social media is a giant key to growth because it immediately puts your content in front of your reader’s friends. However, an important topic of interest to your readers may not be something they would be likely to share socially. My blog is specific to Christian parenting. Many of the posts are not “general interest” enough that someone would share with all of their friends on Facebook even though they in reality “like” the content (like meaning affinity, not Facebook like). I am constantly trying to balance writing posts that are “social media” friendly in order to generate growth and posts that are just plain good content regardless of sharability. I’ve had posts with 150+ shares and posts with 5 shares…I just have to balance it as a content portfolio. (The key to analyzing interest vs. sharability is looking at Facebook click throughs vs. shares. If the click through rate is low, it means the topic is uninteresting in the first place; if the click through rate is high but the share rate is low, it means either that the topic is not sharable or that it truly wasn’t a good post!)

    2. I think the bigger a platform grows, the more diversity you have to have in your content to interest different people at different times. I am very narrowly focused on Christian parenting topics, but even within that, if I am always posting about prayer at home, that excludes the part of the audience that is more concerned with Bible study, for example. So even with a narrow blog definition and targeted audience, topic diversity is necessary to please a growing audience. I find it challenging to keep thinking of different topic areas that appeal to the wide spectrum within the “narrow” audience.

    3. I love the idea of content anchors and it’s something I’ve been considering. I’ve started a couple of post series before, though, and the challenge to me is that you may pick something to do a series on that you quickly find isn’t a “hit”. Now I’m scared to put something new out as a big “New Series!” in case it doesn’t hit well and then I have to quietly pull the plug. It’s something I have to think through more.

    Thanks for the great post!

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      Natasha, sounds like you’re a pro! And thanks for the kind words about the book – I’m so glad you found it helpful.

      Yes, you need to offer a diverse range of topics to your readers, but they need to be authentic to you. I would advise against ensuring your posts are Facebook-shareable for everyone. If you’re writing content that’s within your wheelhouse, if it’s presented in a way that’s insightful and considers your core readership, then you’re doing your job.

      There’s no way you’re going to please everyone all of the time. Some posts are hit and miss. That’s okay. I don’t always share good content because I don’t always have time. It would be impossible.

      Know your hook. Write from your gut. Offer a variety of posts and do your best to give your readers something new to think about.

      • http://christianmomthoughts.com Natasha

        Definitely not a writing pro – I am a marketing professional for my “day job” though so it’s helpful in understanding my blog growth/marketing. :)

        I agree completely about staying in your wheelhouse and staying authentic. Sometimes it’s all too easy to get obsessed with the immediate feedback of Facebook like/share counts and tailor the blog direction too much toward that.

        I love what you said later in the comments about not needing to post daily. It makes me feel much better, because I simply can’t do that yet always have guilt about it! Right now I’m trying to do 2 high quality posts per week and that is my sweet spot of both feasibility and traffic.

        • http://Twinfatuation.com Cheryl Lage

          Hey Natasha–
          (and Erin, and all the readers and contributors of/to this incredible web resource!)

          Out of the gate, THANK YOU for your kind words on Twinspiration! In the years since its been published, so much has changed, and so many avenues for tribe-building have availed themselves….namely, Facebook and Twitter.

          To reiterate what Erin said in comments above, DO NOT FEEL THE NEED TO BLOG/TWEET/FB POST WHEN YOU HAVE NOTHING OF IMPORT TO “SAY!” Just “doing it” because of a sense of schedule rings hollow and more “obligatory” than of value to your readers. (In recent months I’ve slowed, and have made an effort to add breadth to tribe by contributing or cross-posting to other web-resources…that’s always a great idea for gaining exposure to a similarly demographic…)

          The initial blog we began to build our platform from scratch I feel was more of a “support site” than a blog…although by our current definition of blogs, it’s applicable. Design something that is more interactive if you can…

          Tribe building mandates more of a commitment to interact than monologue-ing “lecture” to your readers (at least for non-fiction). The asking for Q&As, the posting of photos and perspectives from readers in those early years REALLY helped readership and relationships take off.

          Now, simply maintaining connections by the sharing of our experiences as parents of growing twins (and commenting back to readers’ comments) brings great and continuing pleasure.

          True confessions: the writing of our book was NOT because I am a “writer” so much as it was because I felt a genuine vacuum on the shelves when it came to twin pregnancy and parenting. Felt I could write and help fill it…with the invaluable assist from the amazing Erin Reel!

          Instead of feeling futile and overwhelmed in efforts to publish, perhaps step back and determine what need/vacuum/desire is “out there” for what you are hoping to publish. What makes your voice, story, writing, role on the shelves unique? Hone in.

          Not to dissuade ANYONE from writing and seeking publication, but finding that needed niche is key…in my opinion. :)

          Wishing you all great success…and if you’re listening to Erin’s insights, you’re on the right track!

          • http://Twinfatuation.com Cheryl Lage

            Please forgive typos, etc. above…rushing to take our He-Twin to tae kwon do…

            Parenting priority trumped my attention to writing perfection. ;)

  • http://jilldomschot.com Jill

    This gives me something to think about. Thanks. And agree with the posting consistency–if I’m late or skip a post one week, my stats tank.

  • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts

    Thank you for this informative post, Erin. I’ve found your answers to other writers especially helpful and encouraging.

    As a fiction writer, I sometimes get frustrated and discouraged in regards to building a platform. It makes sense for non-fiction but, as Cheryl, PJ and Jeanne have mentioned, platform building isn’t as straight-forward for a novelist.

    I have been trying to build a social media presence, but in April I had reached a saturation point. I was working on getting a short story published, working on two novels and two blogs, working on building a Twitter following (which had been doing quite well), occasionally working on a FB presence (my incompetent area), following and commenting on agent blogs, meeting weekly with a critique group, teaching college classes (my day job) and trying to fit a life in there somewhere. It got to the point where something had to give, so I stopped blogging and then took a Twitter break. There were only so many minutes in the day and I found that trying to be a social media presence was eating up most of those minutes. I felt working on at least one of the novels was the most important thing I could do to work towards getting published.

    My first blog was about what I know: writing. The second one was created in the hopes of attracting potential readers for my YA fantasy novel, so it is about fantasy and “all the things that sing to my Celtic soul.” Logically, I should focus on the fantasy blog, but the writing blog has a much better following. So I hate to let it go. A good friend and a writer who frequently comments on Rachelle’s blog kept after me to start working on the writing blog again, so two weeks ago I started it again. Despite the fact that it had been dormant for about two and a half months, the blog immediately got page views, and continues to daily even though I only post once a week.

    The fantasy blog never attracted as many readers as the writing blog, but since it is more appropriate to my novel, I started working on it again yesterday. I am trying a new approach. I had written posts about how my Celtic upbringing played itself out in my life (for example, growing up believing in thin places)or discussing how banshees are portrayed in films versus the Celtic image of a banshee, I am trying a creative writing approach. I have formed a Society of Banshee Supporters and have announced that Keira Nightsinger, a banshee who’s served for over twenty ages, has agreed to a series of interviews and to share parts of the journal of her Life Service. I’m hoping this new approach will help attract followers. Also I can tie it into my novel without giving away much of the plot–just introduce some characters to potential readers.

    The struggle for me is understanding how much I should be working towards a media presence and how many mediums I need to be on. Some agents say fiction writers don’t have to concern themselves with it as much as non-fiction writers and other agents and professional writing sources say that a substantial following on blogs, Facebook and Twitter is essential to being published traditionally.

    So it gets confusing and, at times, overwhelming. I understand Josey’s frustration and discouragement.

    • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

      I’m starting to streamline, Christine. Perhaps my blog will feed my Facebook page and Twitter will advertise my blog. I’m guessing here, but it seems the traditional published fiction writers blog after the book comes out while self-pubs must attract their own audience. If an aspiring fiction writer is going the traditional publishing route, they should spend their blog time on OTHER people’s blogs, particularly those run by agents. That way when they send in their query, it’s from someone the agent already knows. Again, this is just a guess based on my understanding of advice by agents on their blogs.
      (Too bad Rachelle doesn’t do sci-fi/fantasy. :-P )

      • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts

        Yes, too bad for you and me both!

        Thanks, P.J. As you know, I spent a lot of time on agent blogs. As I’ve said before, the writing community here keeps me coming back, and of course there also is great advice from Rachelle, the other Books and Such agents and guest bloggers like Erin. I’m also aware that commenting puts my name before agents and helps them get to know me. Sometimes that last part really worries me. I am afraid that they might see my name on a query and go, “Oh, no! It’s that crazy Christine from the blog.” So it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. Still, I don’t know how I got through the writing life before you, Jennifer and the rest of this community came into my life. I have been away from the blog for a few days because of life circumstances and I have missed my friends. So I keep coming back, even at the risk of my career :)

        • http://pjcasselman.wordpress.com/ P. J. Casselman

          It’s a joy to have your encouraging presence as well.
          The comment “Oh no” probably pertains to me more than you. I often imagine Rachelle rolling her eyes at the majority of my posts. GRIN She is, however, one of my favorite “never met” persons, ranking right up there with several deceased authors. (ducks Jennifer’s swinging hand)

          • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts

            Thanks, P.J.! :)

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      Christine, I totally understand and appreciate your frustration.

      For fiction writers, I strongly feel your focus should be on your novel. There are countless fiction authors who don’t have blogs and don’t intend to start one. Those authors typically spend their energies submitting short pieces to lit journals, ezines, contests, etc. (I mentioned this in the comment thread above). It takes time and it always has. Not much has changed with this process.

      However, there are blogs like Girlfriends Book Club that operate as a collaborative. They have a monthly theme and the many bestselling and notable fiction authors who write for the blog contribute something along the lines of the theme. So, there is that option, if several of you would like to organize a collaborative blog effort.

      You all have given me great fodder for future blog posts re: fiction writer platforms…

      • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts

        Ooh! A collaborative blog. Intriguing idea. Anyone interested?

        Thanks so much, Erin. :)

  • http://careann.wordpress.com Carol J. Garvin

    At the end of June I launched into my fifth year of blogging and wondered what impact, if any, my posts were making. I don’t have published fiction to promote yet so my topics flit from writing to faith, gardening to family, and back again. At first I worried about not having a specific focus, but I’ve found my readers seem to like the variety and what it reveals about me as a person. In the process I’m building relationships with people from diverse interest groups.

    For now, I view each post as a writing exercise and an opportunity to strengthen cyber friendships, but beyond that, I’m not sure my blog is serving any real purpose as far as developing a pre-publication tribe. Until publication is in sight, however, I’m also not sure if that matters.

    Thanks for giving me something to think about. :)

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      If your readers are happy then you’re doing something right.

      One of my clients used her blog to explore her voice in English (it wasn’t her first language). With some direction, she was posting some of the most beautiful verbal snapshots and stories of her life in Europe that I’ve ever read. I loved her perspective. Through this exercise, she strengthened her craft and developed a nice following.

      I have another friend who lives in Echo Park, Los Angeles who does the same. I call her the love child of David Sedaris and Erma Bombeck. Sometimes her posts are about what’s going on in her very colorful neighborhood, sometimes about her kids or carnival rides – you never know what you’re gonna get. What’s consistent is her voice. I know I’m going to love her posts when they land in my inbox.

      Sounds like you’re on that same path? If so, that’s great.

  • http://talesfromtheredhead@blogspot.com Jennifer Major

    I’ve had an online journal/blog since 2001. I have a sweet Jewish Bubby in Montreal waiting for my CBA book to be published so she can read it. I have an athiest friend who is beta reading it.

    Those older blog friends also know about my newer blog and hopefully will hop over and visit me there.
    I am a regular commenter on a few industry blogs and have been leaving my real name in the comments! And so far, not one visit from the FBI or the RCMP. ;)
    Building professional connections as well as friendships will only benefit me in the long run.
    I do think I’ll be ranting about justice alot more, once I get home and settled back into my routine.

    • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts

      Well, I can understand why you haven’t been visited by the RCMP, Jennifer, but the FBI and CIA need to get with the program! I’ve already outed you as a Canadian spy, you’re whereabouts in the U.S. are known and still no FBI…? Such slackers! :)

      You have done a great job at building a presence on blogs and your own blog is fantastic. You’ve even ventured successfully into vlog-land. Keep it up, girlfriend!

  • Susan Foy

    I haven’t started a blog but I have thought about it. I haven’t started for basically two reasons. First, I don’t really know what the focus would be that I could write about regularly enough to keep people coming back for more. And secondly, which is related, I write fiction and it’s hard for me to see how a blog would relate to my fiction. I can see that a well-known, successful fiction writer would write a blog because her readers would want to get to know her (or him), but as an unknown it’s hard for me to understand who would want to read my blog. Any ideas?

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      We’ve begun to tackle these issues in the comment thread…you might find those comments helpful.

  • http://Www.summerjarviswrites.com Summer

    I really suck at that part!

  • http://uprootinganger.com Kay Camenisch

    The whole platform thing is overwhelming to me. I have a nonfiction manuscript that is ready, is in the hands of an agent, and feedback tells me that it’s good and “needs to be published,” but I don’t have the platform to go with it. Now, my primary focus is platform building, but it is outside my gifting and comfort zone. I feel I’m being squeezed into a hole made for someone else. I’m doing the twitter and blogging on the previous book/topic and building slowly. I’ve only recently realized that I need to be working on the new topic and don’t yet see how to work the two together and manage it all. The only thing that keeps me moving is my passion about the upcoming book. I wish I had gotten it finished ten years ago!

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      Kay, the whole platform issue is outside many writers’ comfort zones, so you’re not alone. You just have to approach it piece by piece.

      If you’re an “expert” author, as Cheryl is, you’ve got to be visible. Allow yourself the time you need to become visible. For Cheryl, that was about 18 months. If you write within another nonfiction genre, your platform may be built differently; it may be more about building a portfolio of published work.

      Who are some of your favorite current authors within your genre? How did they get their start? How did they get their ideas to their audience before they published a book?

      • http://www.fragmentsandfriends.blogspot.com Christine Dorman / @looneyfilberts

        More good ideas, Erin!

    • http://www.joannaaislinn.com Joanna Aislinn

      Your comment really speaks to me. Although I’m already thick in the mix of platform-building (or so I think), I have trouble balancing the two–as if my brain can’t multi-task social media, platform, promoting and producing new content. (That last one is a major stickler these days.)

      Interestingly enough, I’ll be giving a talk this upcoming Saturday specifically re: a related topic: What I wish I’d known–and done differently–before I got published.

      I do, however, feel I’m taking many faith-laden steps. Like the crow, I keep dropping stones into the pitcher and waiting for the water level to rise to the height I need. I keep showing up. If I don’t do at least that, I am totally not in this game.

      Great post–thank you!

  • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

    Also, writers, once you’ve found the hook of your blog, invite others to contribute to your blog as I’m doing here on Rachelle’s and as I do on my blog. It’s a great way to connect with your community of writers/experts, your readers will appreciate the fresh content, you’ll drive more traffic to your blog, and it gives you a little break.

    And, though Cheryl blogged every day, YOU don’t have to if it’s too much for you. Choose a blog schedule that’s manageable for you. If that means just one post a week, that’s great.

  • http://www.rasavary.com R.A.Savary

    There is a lot of good stuff here. When I read blogs and the comments, I start imagining what it’s like to be in a conversation with the writer, what it’s like to be around that person as they interact with others. Mirroring that, I try to write my blog as the way I would talk if “constant reader” (yeah, I stole it) were here and my comments as the way I interact with others. In life I don’t have a problem with being a loner and many times an outsider. But I must emphasize, also in life I realized I needed to interact with others. Sometimes it takes others a while to understand that I am sociable, but I am being so at my own pace. That’s all I have on the blog.

    Am I the only one that takes the overgrown, one-lane cow-paths anymore? I suppose it’s a rhetorical question since it is answered in Erin’s statement, “Despite her lack of platform, I did something rare — I offered representation.” If I don’t sometimes go against the grain, even my own, I will miss out on something, maybe something big. I realized while writing, that line stuck out today because I needed to hear it. Thanks, Erin.

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      If writers stopped taking those one-laned cow paths, as you put it, I would find myself another job. Glad the post resonated with you. Thanks!

  • http://triplethreaded.wordpress.com Samantha Bennett

    Really liked the part about knowing your purpose and being able to speak it in a sentence. That shows you’ve really honed in on what exactly you’re doing online. Love and thanks for sharing, Ms. Erin!

  • http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Has anyone tried Pinterest as a way of promoting a platform?

    It’s supposed to be the Next Big Thing.

    (But so was 8-track, laserdics, and the Yugo.)

    • http://christianmomthoughts.com Natasha

      Andrew – I don’t use Pinterest to pin personally (as a way of getting followers there), but I have the “Pin It” button on each of my blog posts so the readers can pin to THEIR site. I originally thought pinterest didn’t apply to me because it is so picture-oriented, and I write a (text) blog. However, I saw that some other bloggers had a pin button next to their other social sharing options and realized that people DO pin articles. I added it and I do now get some people pinning my posts to their pinterest boards. This in turn has generated some mild traffic from their followers. It certainly hasn’t done anything like Facebook, but it is worthwhile to offer the button as long as you have a featured image on each of your posts. Interesting tip – if you type http://pinterest.com/source/urlofyoursite, you can see every pin that someone has made from your blog.

  • Fernando A. Sierra

    Hi. So far, from what I’ve seen, I didn’t think that information for building a platform will be given anywhere. At this moment, I sent my non-fiction book to KellerMedia. Wendy Keller said I had great content for the book named ‘The Letter That Saves the Universe’. She said great things, but couldn’t offer representation because of the lack of platform. Ever since, I have been trying to build my platform using a newly done website, facebook, and twitter. I’m proud I got this far, but I’m overwhelmed. It’s been two years and a half that I’ve been working on this. I’ve sacrificed my home, work, school, family, relationships, and loved ones TWICE. I been through poverty in Italy and Colombia. I been to Croatia and Bosnia. Bosnia, as you might know, is a country that is still at war in it’s country over religious reason. This is only a bit from the overwhelming experiences I’ve had to create book that will bring union intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, physically, between nations…universally. But, I don’t know where to go next. As you see, I’ve reached a point where I don’t know what else to do. What should I keep doing to build a platform??? I need of help, if help can be given.

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      Fernando, I am never in favor of sacrificing relationships and an entire lifestyle over pleasing the publishing industry in general. None of my former agency clients had that experience and neither have the writers I work with in my consultancy. Without knowing the specifics of your work, it’s impossible for me to give detailed direction.

      I hope you’re not working entirely to please one agent. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

      What do you think about self-publishing? Many authors are using that as a means to help build their platform in order to one-day lure an agent or publisher. Of course, you’ve got to be ready to sell the book…

      Listen, I know it’s hard. But the writing life has never been easy. I’m wishing you a break in the clouds.

      • Fernando A. Sierra

        Oh no. You misunderstood or maybe I expressed myself incorrectly. What I meant to say, that in the area of my passion (creating philosophies through self-help, science, and more to bring universal union between people and human kind) I have sacrificed all types of things to create this book. Meaning, everything I’ve done is for a greater cause and belief between people, not for an agent. I got lucky in receiving a good letter from an Agent that said they liked my book, but couldn’t represent me JUST YET since I had a lack of a platform. But that the content of the book was great. So, I was just wondering if you knew what would be my best option to create a platform? I have created a Website, facebook, twitter, and more. I have contacted a publicist to get my word out and receive some media time. But, I’m not really sure if I’m taking the right steps or if there are other options I can take with the book.

        As for self-publishing, I feel as if that is taking baby steps. I feel as if my book is so Universal in a self-help way that I can risk taking the “leap of faith” towards getting an Agent. Lucky enough, I received good new and bad news. As you know, I would need a platform for representation. But at least I got the approval of the owner of the agency to like the content. The thing is, I’m only 23. But willing to put in the work, as you already know, to create the platform.

  • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

    Some of you may be interested in reading this blog post by Jeff Bullas, “30 Inspiring Ideas to Develop Content for Your Blog.”

    Lots of great ideas! May not apply to everyone, but there are a lot of wonderful ideas to help inspire and direct.

    http://www.jeffbullas.com/2010/12/17/30-inspiring-ideas-to-develop-content-for-your-blog/

  • http://mindywendell.blogspot.com Mindy

    Does it ever happen the other way around–you start a blog and people start telling you it should be a book?

    Can blog posts become a book, or is that an unlikely situation since people have already read your blog posts and wouldn’t buy the book?

    • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

      Absolutely, Mindy. There have been several blogs that were crafted into books, Julie and Julie is one, my friend Robin Donovan’s novel, Is it Still Murder Even if She Was a Bitch?, was born from Robin’s blog Menologues – a blog about dealing with menopause with as much humor as possible. Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip: Confessions of a Cynical Waiter by Steve Dublanica is another.

      • http://mindywendell.blogspot.com Mindy

        Thanks so much for your response, Erin! I’m not sure if you’re still replying to comments on your guest blog, but if you are, I have one more question. From what I’ve been reading, platform is essential for nonfiction writers but maybe not quite as critical for fiction writers. What about for those who write memoirs? Memoirs are nonfiction, obviously, yet they seem different from other kinds of nonfiction.

  • Pingback: Friday Features #15 | Yesenia Vargas

  • http://barbararaerobinson.com Barbara Rae Robinson

    Timely post, Erin. I am switching to a new web host and starting to design an entirely new website and blog. And I’m working on platform ideas and figuring out what I want to include in my blog posts. I’m a fiction writer. Your post and the comments have given me lots to think about.

    Barb

  • http://thelitcoach.com Erin Reel

    Thanks so much, writers, for reading and your comments! Big thanks to Cheryl Lage for stopping by and giving her insights on the process – she’s a master. I had fun hanging out here with you. Good luck to all!

  • http://DeborahHBateman.com Deborah H. Bateman

    Thanks for sharing this post. It is interesting to me to see how others build their platform for their niche. Blessings,
    Deborah H. Bateman-Author

  • http://tw.myblog.yahoo.com/anrey-blog/article?mid=6912&prev=6996&l=f&fid=23 trueimage 11 home

    Remove everything, that a theme does not concern.

    P.S. Please review our icons for Windows and windows13icons.

  • Pingback: When Passion and Purpose Align | Erin Reel Publishing Services

  • Pingback: What Not To Do If You Self-Publish | Erin Reel Publishing Services

line
Site by Author Media © Rachelle Gardner.